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MousePlanet Mailbag for January 8, 2004

We receive considerable feedback regarding our site. Although we cannot publish all of them, the following may be of interest to other readers. It's been several weeks since our last Mailbag, so this one's longer than usual

Feedback for Lani Teshima

Regarding this weekend's Walt Disney World Marathon (see our previous coverage here), Lise Desgalier writes:

I am sending you this e-mail because after being on the official marathon site I still did not find a solution to my problem. Well my friend David and I registered for the marathon a while ago and both got our confirmation number,then I received the official "race number pick-up card and waiver" with the race book in the mail, but my friend did not.Since then we have been sending e-mail about it but still nothing, so how can I find a phone number to contact someone and have this problem solved? Because by e-mail it isn't working and we need this card to pick up our race packet and the race is in a month.

Thank you very very very much for your help!

Lise – All the folks I know who have entered the full- and half-marathons have received their packets; not just you. That makes me think that David's registration did somehow go awry.

The only phone number they list in the email announcements to registrants is for Disney Sports Travel, at (407) 939-7810. The online registration query email address is info@signmeupsports.com, which means the actual work of registration is being handled by a different company than Disney.

According to the SignMeUpSports Web site, their phone number is (312) 932-4400. They do have an online form for filling out questions about registration, but since you haven't heard from them, I suggest you call (that's assuming you've been emailing them at that address, and not trying to contact Disney directly).

Did you and David register online? If so, did you register at about the same time, and did you make a print-out of David's registration acknowledgement Web page? That will help a lot when you try to get help; you'll be able to tell them when registration occurred, and so on.

Also, did David's credit card get charged? He'll need to go back and check his bills. If you paid on a different card, you might want to check yours to see when you were billed. That might give David an idea of whether he was or wasn't charged at about the time you were charged on your card.

Their Web site says that a detailed email is the best way to contact them, which makes me suspect that their hours are limited, or their phone staff pool is small. Before you email them, I would gather all the material I have (registration print-out, etc.), with pen/paper ready. Leave a concise, clear message about the situation. Since we are now only a month away from the marathon, I would phone them everyday until you get a live person, or they call you back. Every time you do, keep a record of your call. If you talk to a person, get their name for future reference if they tell you the registration's in the mail, and it's not.

Finally, if you and David have already paid for your trip and you are both going regardless, I would suggest that David take all his paperwork with him, and go to the packet pick-up area during the Fitness Expo weekend. There is a help desk there, and they might be able to help him. Since the marathon is officially full, I have no idea if they would let him run, though if I were him and he was charged on his card, I would make a big stink.

As a last resort, if they charged his credit card but refuse to let him run, he should contact his credit card company to refuse the charges, and he can let his bank handle it—at the very least, he'll get his registration fee back.

Good luck—I hope it works out OK for him.

Feedback for Shoshanna Lewin

Regarding Shoshanna's "Disneyland College Program" series (April 16, 2003), Betsy McIver writes:

I really enjoyed reading about your experience in the Disneyland College Program. I've been interested in the program for a while but I noticed that at the end of your story you say you hope they bring it back someday. Did they stop doing it? (If they did, that would explain why I am having such a difficult time finding information on it!) Thanks!

Betsy – In answer to your question—yes and no. It no longer operates the way it did when I was in it. But, apparently there is some sort of college program they refer to on their Web site. Of course, being Disney, they provide no contact number—when I called College Relations several months ago the phone just kept ringing.

Things change constantly, however. If you are interested in working at Disneyland, contact the casting office and ask how you can be a part of the college program. If it is still kaput, and you still want to work at Disneyland, when you get hired, let your lead (manager) know you are interested in learning about the company. Ask if you can shadow him/her, and take classes offered at Disney University (they are free, but on your own time) in business, networking, resumes, etc. Introduce yourself to whomever you can and make contacts.

If you still want to be in a college program—WDW has one, but you must do it for an entire semester. To apply for that go to www.wdwcollegeprogram.com and find out when they are coming to a school near you so you can interview with them.

Good luck and let me know what happens.

Regarding "The Guest Experience" (October 21, 2003), Mindy writes:

I just wanted to thank you for posting all of these wonderful stories about happy/magical times at Disneyland. This is why my husband and I are planning to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary Disneyland.

Thanks again for sharing the magic.

Mindy – You are so welcome!

I'm so glad you enjoyed reading them. We love sharing magical stories. Happy Holidays and congrats on your 20 magical years!

Feedback for Mike Scopa

Regarding "Empty Nest Touring" (October 3, 2003), Mark L. Fendrick writes:

I truly enjoyed your article on Empty Nest visiting. My kids are both in their 20's now, but I thought you might get a chuckle out of the fact that very little has changed for us visiting the parks.

Although my son still lives with us but can be taken out of the equation, my wife (as is my son, by the way, who was a College Program participant at one time) is a teacher, so guess what ... I am still limited to school vacations.

And as for being childless, did I mention that my daughter works in WDW? That's right, she moves in with us for the visit, and manages to either get the days off or arranges the schedule that she is working.

When both my kids were working in WDW we used to say that although my wife and I always planned on retiring to Orlando and working part-time at WDW, we didn't expect our children to be there waiting for us.

I always enjoy your writing... keep up the good work.

Mark – I must confess that my empty nester days in the park also mirror the family days that were spent in years past.

Funny that you should mention how your children have ended up working in WDW.

One of my children works for an ABC network affiliate and we know who owns ABC don't we?

Thanks for the note.

Regarding "The Trouble With Epcot" (November 7, 2003), Tim Wolfers writes:

Great article on Epcot! As you pointed out in the report, Epcot never became what Walt had envisioned, but pieces of it have appeared over the years. To build a city type community would have been needs be met—political influences would have taken over, state laws, on and on... I can't imagine what the final result would have looked like. I think it could have been done on a smaller scale but we will never know.

About who goes to Epcot—I have talked to all kinds of WDW goers and it often comes down to economic class. Those of higher income levels seem to really enjoy the Epcot experience.

For me it has a sort of "been there, done that" type of feel. How many times can you float along to see hydroponic lettuce, or watch stingrays float lazily by? On the other hand I enjoy Tower of Terror and "it's tough to be a bug".

That's my take on things- keep up the great work!

Tim – When Disney first began discussions with the state of Florida there were some concerns regarding how building and zoning regulations would impact their development plans.

They were able to gain special immunity from those regulations and even today, with very few exceptions—federal at best—Orange County officials cannot send a building inspector to Disney property.

Disney had made their case regarding EPCOT as always being "in a state of becoming" and thus was given the immunity from government regulations mentioned earlier.

If you are interested in learning more about how this evolved, and especially regarding the formation of the Reedy Creek Improvement District I suggest reading Married to the Mouse by Richard E. Foglesong (2001, Yale University Press).

Regarding EPCOT's audience I completely agree with you regarding the economic and age factor. I think this is a thorn in EPCOT's side and the goal is to broaden that audience with moves such as the creation of Test Track and Mission: Space.

There is a feeling today that EPCOT's most important treasure is Illuminations: Reflections of Earth because it draws a percentage of visitors who otherwise may not step foot into that park.

As for the cost of the restaurants, no arguments here. The best way around the cost is twofold, when visiting WDW an Annual Pass may get you luncheon discounts in many of the World Showcase restaurants. Another thing to keep in mind is to avoid dinner in EPCOT, as most entrees will jump close to 15 percent from their luncheon price.

Thanks for the note.

Feedback for Mark Goldhaber

Anne Seritella writes:

I just read something you wrote about annual passes not being activated until you used them. I bought one years ago for this very purpose. The renewals worked the same way. Then they changed it I thought. It used to be that if you renewed before the end of your year, you paid the renewal rate and then got a voucher. The year on the renewal pass did not start until you activated the voucher. It that still correct? Thanks

Anne – The way in which renewals are being handled has indeed changed. They are now truly renewals, rather than a discount on your next pass. When you renew your annual pass, you get a new pass that is good for one year from the expiration of your previous pass. Disney was finding that many people were abusing the renewal system and just buying new passes to use some time in the future, rather than actually using it as a renewal.

Now, if you are considering a renewal, you need to decide if the discounted rate is a better deal than waiting a few months or more and then buying a new pass to get a full year's worth of access from first use. If you've got an unused voucher from a previous renewal, it's probably still good, but you won't be able to do the old renewal voucher trick any more. I hope that this answers your question.

Anne writes back:

Thanks Mark, that is what I thought. And that it exactly what I had done. As a matter of a fact, it had been a few years in between. I also was sorry that I had a premium annual pass, because at this stage in our lives we were not using it much. My husband and I go to Disney and not even go into the parks every day. There is so much else to do. I was saving the premium until we went with grandchildren and for a longer time. You now, you cannot change and get the current value, even though they have been holding your money for all this time.

So... Next question. We are going next month, to activate a pass to get the Annual Passholder room rate. It also gets discounts on Dolphins in depth and Aqua Seas. Do we both have to show passes or can I buy two tickets under one passholder's name?

Thanks for the info.

Anne – Sorry for the delayed response.

As far as I know, AP discounts on Dolphins in Depth and Aqua Seas require one AP per person. Your best bet to confirm may be to call 407-WDW-TOUR and ask if one AP can get you two discounts, or if it's one per passholder.

Enjoy your trip!

Regarding "Betcha Didn't Know, Part 2" (October 8, 2003), Mark's series on lesser-known facts about Walt Disney World, frequent correspondent Dan Young writes:

You wrote:

Some folks insist on calling Epcot's Spaceship Earth "the golf ball." Of course, that has decreased significantly since they stuck the Sorcerer's Wand on top of it and diminished its majesty.

I'm so happy that I'm not the only one who thinks this. I didn't like the big hand from the start. And now they've added an incredibly cheesy blue wave cutout that can be seen from the front entrance.

Dan – There is actually a debate that occasionally surfaces at one of the WDW bulletin boards that I frequent regarding the Wand and the Hat/BAH. Some like it, most don't. I think that the wand cheapens the geosphere and seriously detracts from its majesty. When I get down there in a couple of days, I think that I'm dreading seeing the wave cutout. Of course, I've also heard rumors that if/when the attraction undergoes a facelift inside, the wand will disappear from the outside. Oh, I really hope so.

I kind of like the hat, just not where they put it. Either outside the entrance plaza or at the entry to the Animation Courtyard would be great places to put it, but blocking the Chinese Theater is just terrible. I have a rant about the hat and the wand in one of my trip reports. I think it's the November 2002 one.

As far as the Pepto-Bismol cakesicle, I think that it was best summed up in a story that I heard. A couple of days after the official October 1 event, we took the Backstage Magic tour with a great tour guide whose name I can't remember. On October 1, she was tasked with escorting some of the Disney Legends through the festivities. Bill Evans and (I believe) Bill Martin were talking about the cake, and one asked the other, "What do you think Walt would have thought of that?" The other replied, "He would have liked it. For about five minutes." I think that sums it up.

Thanks for writing.

Victor Ivan writes:

Hello guys, first of all let me congratulate for the flawless work you do with your page. It's been my news reference for a long time – anytime I want to know something about Disney. I live in Mexico City, and me and my friends are planning to go to Walt Disney World to spend New Years in the park. We would arrive on December 25 and we are planning to return on January 3rd 2004, but I was checking on your site and there don't seem to be any special things on those days. Ive never been to Disney World on New Years, so I was wondering if they will be open? If so what are the park hours? Is there somewhere in the park where we can spend New Years? Does Disney do something special on that day?

So if you guys could help me providing me some information about the activities park hours, etc. of the Disney World parks on those days I would be extremely grateful.

Thanks in advance guys.

Victor – Sorry for the delayed reply. This was just forwarded to me from our generic mailbag, which sometimes overflows and causes delayed delivery. Anyway, now to the response.

You are going to be at Walt Disney World at the busiest time of year. The parks will be packed, and there will be waits everywhere. The good news is that the parks will be open longer hours, and there will be more live entertainment than the rest of the year. (If you're staying at a Disney resort, you might want to see if you could move the dates up a couple of days. The rate for the first night's stay will be the rate you pay for the whole trip, and the prices a couple of days ahead of your planned trip may be substantially lower. Something to consider.)

At this point, on New Year's Eve, the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and the Studios are all scheduled to be open until midnight. (The Animal Kingdom closes at 6:00 that night.) The Magic Kingdom will have SpectroMagic at 8:00 and 10:00 and the new Wishes fireworks show at 9:00. The Studios will have Fantasmic! showing at 6:30, 8:30, and 10:00. Epcot will have a special showing of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth at 11:40, timed for its explosive finale at the stroke of midnight. The parks will all be crowded, and you'll want to get to the park that you plan to spend midnight in much, much earlier in the day if you want to guarantee that you get in. Since restaurants are already taking Priority Seating requests for that night, you will want to get your request in as quickly as possible if you want to eat a sit-down dinner.

Of course, if you want something different, you can go to the big New Year's celebration at Pleasure Island with Blondie, the Sugar Hill Gang, and Jeff Kashiwa. They've got desserts, a champagne toast and a midnight fireworks display. That'll set you back $79 per person, and you probably need to order your ticket now. (They're available online at the disneyworld.com site.)

I hope that this answers your questions, and I hope you have a great time ringing in the New Year at Walt Disney World.

Feedback for Alex Stroup

Regarding Alex's new "Screen reViews" column, Patrick Germain writes:

I want to thank you for your reviews of Calendar Girls and The Young Black Stallion. I read movie reviews primarily to learn if a film is actually what it is advertised to be and if there are any elements which I might not want to see (8 Millimeter is an example of a film where the reviews convinced me not to see it).

Therefore, I greatly appreciate you including in the Calendar Girls review that it just barely earns a PG-13 rating. I also liked the fact that you assured readers the film wasn't the obvious "old folks act like young rebels" story.

As for the IMAX film, you're right. I would have been pretty upset at dropping ten dollars for a 45-minute movie, especially if it really didn't offer much in the way of spectacular IMAX scenes.

Thanks for taking the time to write your reviews. I look forward to future articles.

Patrick – Thanks for the kind words.

Making sure that my reviews include information on why a movie is rated as it is, is something I am trying to make a point to include. Reviewing PG-13 and even R movies may otherwise seem outside the scope of MousePlanet's core audience, but in addition to the family entertainment aspect of MousePlanet, we also have a second core of readers simply interested in the entire Walt Disney Company.

For that reason, we are reviewing all movies released under the Walt Disney Pictures and Touchstone Pictures labels. Walt Disney Pictures recently broke the PG-13 barrier with Pirates of the Caribbean, and Touchstone has always made movies with R ratings. For now, however, we're not including Miramax movies unless they have a particularly family orientation, so things shouldn't get too adult.

Feedback for MousePlanet

Regarding the November 13, 2003 Mailbag, Brian Poole writes:

I was reading your Nov. 13, 2003 mailbag, and noticed an error in a response. Tim Glidewell wrote and asked if there were any non-Disney hotels on property that offered some of the same benefits as Disney hotels. You stated that the Downtown Disney area hotels do not offer in-park or Downtown Disney purchases to be delivered to your hotel.

While the other perks listed are not offered, package delivery from the parks certainly was. We stayed at the Courtyard by Marriot in Downtown Disney (my review is in the hotel review section) in Oct. 2003, and we were able to have purchases delivered to our hotel. We did this in Epcot, MK, and DD. Thanks for your article. I enjoy reading MousePlanet, and keep up the great work.

Brian – Thanks for the update. That's certainly a valuable perk to staying at the Downtown Disney hotels! We appreciate the correction.


GENERAL QUESTIONS

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